Part 4 of 4 | Photoshop Processing
A lot of the techniques I describe here are most likely possible in other image editing programs but my only real experience is with Photoshop so hopefully it is easily translatable if you are using something else. I’m going to assume you have a working knowledge of Photoshop. This includes converting your raw files and getting them into Photoshop. If you are a complete beginner you will probably be lost but this isn’t a Photoshop beginner’s guide. I’ll also be focusing on a few Photoshop plugins that can greatly enhance your processing capabilities. There are some freeware tools we will be looking at too for stacking purposes. These will all be done in video format so I apologize if my monotone voice puts you to sleep.
Stacking with DeepSkyStacker
If you have more than just light frames you can use the freeware program DeepSkyStacker. I explain the basics in the below video. Note you will probably have to switch it to 720p or 1080p and go fullscreen to be able to read anything.
The easiest ways to immediately improve your image are to neutralize the sky background (basically white balancing) and correctly setting black and white levels. I also discuss how you can bring out more structure in things like the milky way or nebulosity. Note you will probably have to switch it to 720p or 1080p and go fullscreen to be able to read anything.
Noise Reduction Plugins
The Photoshop noise reduction plugins discussed in this video are Nik Dfine 2.0 (also available at Adorama), PictureCode Noise Ninja, and Topaz DeNoise (my favorite one). Either plugin will serve you well and are much better than the default noise reduction that ships with many image editing programs. Note you will probably have to switch it to 720p or 1080p and go fullscreen to be able to read anything.
StarSpikes Pro plugin
This little plugin is a way to add some character to your stars with Diffraction spikes and glow effects. It’s available from their website. Note you will probably have to switch it to 720p or 1080p and go fullscreen to be able to read anything.
Stacking Star Trails
Here is a quick little video to show you how to stack multiple-exposure Star Trail images using the free Startrails application.
I hope you enjoyed this guide and it encouraged you to try your hand at Astrophotography. Please leave comments with your feedback and let me know if there’s anything big that I missed, anything I should change or if there’s more tutorials you want to see.
Links of Interest
These are some links suggested by readers.
Magic Lantern Firmware – Custom firmware for the Canon 5D MKII, T1i/T2i/T3i or 50d/60d and potentially more. This is a custom firmware that can add an in camera intervalometer, longer exposures, more shutter speeds, ISOs, and more.
Canon Hack Development Kit – Allows you to take RAW exposures and have full manual control with many Canon “point and shoot” cameras. This may make some of them viable for some forms of Astrophotography.
Another Barn Door Tracker – A third design for the home made barn door tracker.
Backyard EOS – Camera control software for Canon DSLRs (hook up your DSLR to a laptop and take pictures from there)
Astronomy for Beginners – Resource for both observing and astrophotography for beginners.